Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pixie and the woman he loved

I have a family full of amazing women. This is something I don't take for granted. I have always tried to be grateful for the incredible examples I have had.

One of those women was my Aunt Pam. She was married to Honey's youngest brother who was a career Army man. They lived in North Carolina, and when I left Mississippi to go to college in the same town where they lived, they became like grandparents to me.

Aunt Pam grew up in England. When she was 14, she went to London, lied about her age, and signed up to be an ambulance driver. This was during WWII. She and Uncle Dadie met during the war. They got married. They had two children and lived all over the world. She lost much of her British accent, but retained a very distinctive pronunciation of certain words and always enunciated her consonants extremely clearly.

Aunt Pam smoked. A lot. When she was in her 70's, she liked to tell a story about how her doctor took a chest x-ray just to see what was there, because she smoked so much, and it was clear as a bell. She was just one of those people that could smoke, she would say. She smoked these very thin, long cigarettes, and at one time, used to put them in a holder like Cruella D'Ville.

Aunt Pam had a gin and tonic everyday at 5:00 PM. And possibly several more after that, but I don't know. It didn't matter to me. I thought she was perfect.

My freshman year of college, she had a birthday party for me. It was the same night as our winter formal, so me, my roommate, another friend of ours, and our dates, went over to Aunt Pam's and had cake. I have more pictures of the three of us (sans dates) in our pajamas. We spent the night over there, but I can't for the life of me remember the details. All I remember is that me and any of my friends were always welcome at Aunt Pam's and Uncle Dadie's.

After Uncle Dadie died, Aunt Pam got herself a little dog to keep her company. It was the ugliest and meanest little dog I have ever met. She named him Pixie, and that dog only loved her. But man, did he love her. And if you tried to love her too, you had better count your fingers before you go. He would take a couple of them if he could.

She eventually moved to Colorado to live near her daughter. She needed help, and she was alone in her town. I didn't see her after that, but we did our best to stay in touch.

One of Aunt Pam's great grandchildren was born on her birthday. She said to me, "You would think that at least a child born on my birthday could be named after me."

In our family, you name your children after who has come before them. I am a Temple, which was my great grandmother's maiden name. My father is a Junior, my brother a Third. My nephews and nieces are all named for a family member in at least one of their names. It is just what we do.

Aunt Pam wished for a child to be named after her. She deserved it. I told her a long time ago that if I ever had a little girl, I would see to it that she was named after her Great Great Aunt Pam. Her maiden name will be carried on, and I will teach my daughter about the woman for whom she was named. And I will hope that my daughter is like her. Minus the smoking.

One time, I asked my grandfather if he would just stick around long enough to meet one of my children. I wanted him to hold a baby of mine. I wanted that memory. He just laughed at me and said that I had better hurry up then. That was four years ago.

I think that is my only regret about not having children sooner. There are so many people in my family that I wished they could have known. But, hey. If everything keeps going as planned, Momma will still be around, and Daddy still has his "good days." This time last year, that is more than I thought I could ask for.

So, Aunt Pam, I'll miss you. If there is an afterlife, I hope you are getting to spend it with Dadie and that little mutt of yours. I hope you are happy, and I hope you have great knees now. I'll see you in Arlington soon.